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Match Day 2020: Online announcements replace celebrations, champagne


 

The third Friday in March usually marks a time when medical students across the United States participate in envelope-opening ceremonies with peers and family members. This year, the ruthless onslaught of coronavirus has forced residency programs to rethink their celebrations, leveraging social media platforms and other technologies to toast Match Day in cyberspace.

Dr. Hannah R. Hughes, president of the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association

Dr. Hannah R. Hughes

In the absence of ceremonies taking place due to restrictions on mass gatherings, “we anticipate that students may be more emotional than they expect,” Hannah R. Hughes, MD, president of the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) said in an interview. To support these students on their journey to residency, EMRA has launched a social media campaign, asking medical students “to share with us their envelope-opening moments – either a selfie, photo, or video – that we can share with our online networks,” Dr. Hughes said.

EMRA is also asking program coordinators to forward photos and congratulatory messages to their new residents “so that we can share them with our networks at large,” she added.

Going virtual, it seems, has become the new norm.

At the University of California, San Francisco, the medical school decided to cancel its Match Day celebration for new interns, echoing many other programs across the United States. “We always send out a welcome email and make phone calls to all of our new interns,” said Rebecca Berman, MD, director of UCSF’s internal medicine residency program, which houses 63 medicine interns and 181 residents. Traditionally, the program has hosted the celebration for current residents. That, of course, had to change this year.

Current interns like to join in the fun, “since it means their internship is rapidly coming to a close,” said Dr. Berman, who at press time was considering a virtual toast via Zoom as a possible alternative. “These are difficult times for everyone, and we are doing our best to make our residents feel united and connected while they take care of patients in the era of social distancing.”

Melissa Held, MD, associate dean of medical student affairs at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine, Farmington, had been planning a celebration in the school’s academic rotunda with food and champagne. “Students typically come with their family members or significant others. The dean and I usually say a few words and then at noon, students get envelopes and can open them to find out where they matched for residency,” Dr. Held said. This year, the school will be uploading Match letters to its online system. Students can remotely find out where they matched at noon. “I plan to put together a slide show of pictures and congratulatory remarks from faculty and staff that will be sent to them around 11:30 a.m.,” Dr. Held said.

Mark Miceli, EdD, who oversees Match Day for the 130-plus medical students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, is inviting faculty and staff to submit short videos of congratulations, which it will post on its student affairs Match Day Instagram account. Like other schools, it will share results with students in an email, said Dr. Miceli, assistant vice provost of student life. “This message will be more personalized to our school than the NRMP [National Resident Matching Program] message, and will also include links to our match stats, a map of our matched student locations, and a list of where folks matched,” he said.

Students can opt out of the list if they want to. The communications department has also provided templates for signs students can print out. “They can write in where they matched, and take pictures for social media. We are encouraging the use of various hashtags to help build a virtual community,” Dr. Miceli said.

In a state hit particularly hard by coronavirus, the University of Washington School of Medicine is spreading Match Day cheer through online meeting platforms and celebratory graphics. This five-state school, representing students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho, usually hosts several events across the different states and students have their pick of which to attend, according to Sarah Wood, associate director of student affairs.

In lieu of in-person events, some states are hosting a Zoom online celebration, others are using social media networking systems. “We’re inviting everyone to take part in an online event ... where we’ll do a slide show of photos that one of our students put together,” Ms. Wood said.

Students are disappointed in this change of plans, she said. To make things more festive, Ms. Wood is adding graphics such as fireworks and photos to the emails containing the Match results. “I want this to be more exciting for them than just a basic letter,” she said.

For now, Ms. Wood is trying to focus on the Match Day celebration, but admits that “my bigger fear is if we have to cancel graduation – and what that might look like.”

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